Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mona Passage plan

...Another Large Storm helps us...
We are checked out of the Dominican Republic and we have our exit paper work called a "Despacho" which will allow us to legally leave the country. This all took about 4 hours with customs, marina office and the navy officer to check out our boat. Once all was signed, stamped and approved, we were given the proper paperwork. Next task was predict wind app which we now spend an hour a day on as we study the winds and the swells. As it looks tonight at 1900 Sunday, with a planned departure at 0700 Monday, it all looks good to cross the Mona Passage. This is a 150 nm run all into the east and with the current storm up north of us, once again we have the winds pulled from east to southeast and then flipping to northwest. The storm has the ocean really kicked up into a 10 foot to 15 foot swell but that is north up in the Bahamas. For us the swell is predicted to be 5 feet out of the north east which will put the swell on our port beam. The winds are to be on our stern at 10 knots. We plan to check into Puerto Rico at Marina Pescaderia in the town of Port Real Tuesday at 1200-1400. Here are the captures of the predict wind app.


Samana 0700 when we depart port

Monday Midnight as we push onward

Tuesday 0800 as we approach the coast of Puerto Rico

Tuesday 1400 we should be docked at the marina, ready to check into the country

You can see the large storm up north of us. This is causing the swells

5 foot swells on our port beam. Not a bad ride, we hope

This shows the ocean swells for the entire 24 hour trip
This being our first crossing of the Mona Passage, of course we are looking at all data we can access. While here at the DR marina, we have had intermittent internet access making it difficult to get our weather information, let alone blog.  We do feel that we have a good weather window to cross the Mona Passage, once again, a strong storm far away from us has pulled the trade winds south and then north and has given us a passage opportunity. Sometimes cruisers wait for weeks to cross this passage, we waited 4 days! OK. We will see you in Puerto Rico.....

Friday, March 24, 2017

Santo Domingo DR least we had a car...
We rented a car for the six of us using Oliver at the marina excursion office and we received a mini van with a seriously cracked windshield and bald tires with a boom box and several amps. It also had a commercial taxi sign on the side door, so we could have offered rides as well. We are not sure where they got the car but no one asked questions. The rate was $90 US for the three couples to drive south to Santo Domingo to the colonial section of town. Meloney drove and did an unbelievable job weaving in and out of city traffic avoiding motorcylces, horses, broken down cars and trucks. We only were pulled over once for making a left turn like a pro at a 4 lane interesection where no lefts were allowed. She got out of the traffic ticket by showing Google Maps on the cell phone which had told her to make the turn. None of us could understand Spanish, he spoke no English, and so he shook his head and let us go with a stern look and a clear gesture to keep our eyes on the signs.

Fuel stop, look at the prices
Our first task leaving Samana was filling up the car which arrived on fumes. We stopped at the closet station 10 km away and we filled it up. That cost us $60 US and we ended up leaving about $20 of gas in the car at the end of the day. With wages averaging $10 per day here, this was a real win for the owner of this car. Notice the sign for the gas station prices. RD 210 per liter. The exchange rate is $1 to RD47. That works out to $4.46 per liter. One US gallon is 3.75 liters. So That means this is $4.46 x 3.75 equals $16.75 per US gallon! No wonder everyone is running around on small Honda Z3000 motorcycles. They must get 50-75 miles per gallon.
The next challenge was driving 3 hours from Samana to Santo Domingo and then finding our way around town. We crossed rice fields, rolling hills with cattle, river valleys, rugged mountain passes and finally into the metropolis of town. Once in Santo Domingo, it was C R A Z driving in NYC. Cars cutting us off, multiple lanes of traffic, signs in Spanish, treacherous culverts on the sides of the streets, children sprinting across the divided highways, few traffic lights and "Una Via" streets everywhere.

Thank goodness for Don's LTE chip on T-Mobile, so he was able to navigate for race car driver Meloney as we quickly threw ourselves into the crazy flow.

Once in the city, we stopped at a super market to secure funds from a Western Union where buddy boat Sea Star needed some serious cash to fix their bent prop and prop shaft damaged while we all crossed the Caicos Banks. They hit a coral head in the low angle morning light where none of us could see the massive coral heads as we powered at 6 knots into the sunrise. The Caicos banks are dangerous due to these large coral heads. You can not see them until it is nearly too late. Unfortunately, Sea Star caught one prop on the edge of coral and took damages. Lucky for them, here in the Dominican Republic, they hired divers to replace the shaft and prop while in the water! WOW, amazing workers like this are needed, since we have heard there are no haulouts anywhere in the DR.

After a quick stop at the very large store, we moved on to the colonial section of town. Here are some photos of the Carrefoure Store. It was a food store and a Walmart type store.

Radeen and Meloney had a funny exchange with a young employee as they tried to find a small cooler. They pantomimed "cold" by shivering, then drew a box in the air and pretended to put something in it, while saying "leche." He sent them to the aisle with jackets and sweaters! After wandering around, they found the coolers and brought one back so he could see it. They laughed together as he shook his head as if to say "Now I understand!" Part of the problem was probably the fact that milk here is all UHT milk in a box that does not need to be refrigerated until opened.

20 eggs shrink wrapped, unwashed and unrefrigerated. They will stay fresh for weeks.

Driving into the colonial section of Santo Domingo, we enjoyed seeing the street vendors' carts of coconut water drinks and fruit stands. The DR people are so hard working and everyone has a shop, a cart, a stand, or some crafts to sell. It is really a bustling city and it was very exciting. Especially when compared to the Bahamas or Exumas.
Coconut water drink cart

Typical fruit stand

We parked the car and walked into the colonial district where we bought a very valuable English audio tour of the Cathedral Primada de America Catholic Church, the first cathedral in the new world. Construction began with the consecration of the land in 1514. Over the next 200+ years, they continued to add twelve small chapels onto the sides of the main sanctuary. The church is in amazing shape and was very impressive.

In the plaza outside the church is the monument of Christopher Columbus who sailed into Santo Domingo on December 5, 1492. This is believed to be his third landfall in the New World after first landing at San Salvador in the Bahamas and next Rum Island/Long Island and then here.

After our tours, we were guided to a lovely local restaurant named Mimosa by one of the government tourist guides who keep you safe from the locals who try to walk you out of the safe zone to shake you down. We all enjoyed a very fine lunch of various pasta meals and chicken dishes along with a dozen beers. The total bill for all 6 of us was 4,740 RD including tax and tip. This comes out to $108 US divided by 3 equaled $36 per couple! We are finding the local prices to be very reasonable and with the beer costing 100 RD or $2.12 apiece we can see why so many people vacation here.

Here are a few photos of walking around Santo Domingo

We bumped into this local arts celebration with a band and marching girls. They all looked so cute and happy and proud.

 After a full day in town, it was time to hit the road and drive the 3+ hours back to Samana where we arrived around 2030 hrs. What a fun day of touring the countryside of the Dominican Republic and the city of Santo Domingo. This country has so much to offer and it seems like the people are very hard working and proud of their country, as well as very friendly. The DR is a must stop place on the sailing cruising tour.

The drive from Samana to Santo Domingo 
3+ hour drive

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Samana Dominican Republic

...The mountainous Dominican Coast under our jib...
We made the 40 plus hour run (240 nm) from Provo, Turks and Caicos direct to the Dominican Republic where we docked at the beautiful Marina Puerto Bahia in Samana. This is a five star resort with multiple pools, cafes, comfortable lobbies and all for $1/foot which is only $35 a day. We plan to stay here 4-5 days until the next crossing opportunity for the 24 hour run across the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico. Being offshore for 2 nights and with only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time, we all were exhausted when we arrived Tuesday morning. After docking, we all crashed and then rallied for the pool happy hour where drinks are 2:1 at prices of $3 each.

The DR flag left, Puerto Rico flag right
The DR peso is paying 47:1 USD. Yesterday I bought an ice cream bar for 80 cents! We already are concerned that it may be difficult to leave here. Then again, why leave? We have no schedule.

Our passage was in calm seas and light winds of 5-8 knots out of the east, exactly as shown on our Predict Wind app. Our course was 140 degrees placing the wind about 50-60 off the port bow. This was a motor sail with a full main and a staysail with the engine on at 2400-2500 rpms. The boat runs 6 to 6.5 knots round the clock in this situation.

The wind shift as recorded on the Triton2
This is a 60 minute timeframe
Yes you make 150+ miles a day, but you also have to listen to the engine. The nice aspect is that we took no waves or spray over the bow. The sea had a gentle roll of 2-3 feet maybe 10 seconds and the winds never changed for over a day. Then on day two, as forecasted, the wind shifted in a matter of minutes and built to a solid 10-12 knots. It was at this time we finally killed the engine and sailed about 6 hours into sunset and on into the night until around midnight when we turned towards Samana.

Hayden raises the DR flag
There we pulled into the harbor and dropped the hook and crashed. The next day we up anchored at 0630 to get out of the harbor and move around to the marina where we could check into the country properly. Checking in took about 1-2 hours with paperwork and boat inspections and re-tying the dock lines to keep the boat off the fixed concrete docks. We were thrilled to lower the yellow Q flag and raise the DR flag. Right after that, we crashed at around noon. When we got up and walked off the boat, we all felt like we were drunk as we had not been on land for nearly 3 days. Our balance was whacked and we almost fell off the dock just trying to walk off the finger pier. But a few happy hour drinks by the pool and some great times with out team of six made the evening a blast.

Radeen gets to land and is wobbly

This marina is part of a five star resort with a hotel and condos overlooking the harbor that sell for $300K to $500K. There are comfortable sofas and lounges over looking the marina docks. This is really an amazing place and at a fantastic price. Look at this photo below, this is the lobby overlooking our dock. Beautiful setting!

Marina lobby overlooking our dock

These are real tropical rain forest leaves

Then there is the infinity pool that curves gracefully at the water's edge with a cafe and bar just off the pool deck. The staff is like any good all inclusive resort, very attentive and always there to offer you a drink and make you feel at home. We are swimming in this pool every day, it is simply too beautiful.

Our facilities tour and we discover the pool

Our passage to the DR was so calm and so easy, we simply motor sailed 80% of the trip in 5-8 knots of east winds. Then on the second day the wind came up and shifted and we sailed nearly the rest of the way into the country. Look at this sunrise photo on the day we departed Turks and Caicos.

One of the things we learned is that there are shallow banks that you need to pay attention to out here in the middle of the ocean. We are in thousands of feet of water and then there comes a sand bar island....oh....that is Big Sand Key. Well, who put that in our way? Go around that. Then south of that you have the Mouchoir Bank that rises up from 14,000 feet deeo up to 50 feet and yup, it has a ROCK that you can wreck you boat onto. So, find that and divert around that as well. Look at these chart images and you will see these features.

The shallow banks

TherMouchoir Bank

Oh, look a ROCK on the Mouchoir bank! YIKES!

When running at night, full speed ahead is always stressful and you really have to trust your radar system. That is why we think radar is number one at sea at night. It is the only tool that will tell you there is nothing in front of you that is solid, on the surface, that you could hit. So, you keep scanning, looking and you press on full speed into the blackness. This really takes some time to get comfortable with, but once you are, it actually is easier to be at sea at night that it is at day. There is simply nothing to see, so you just look at your radar screen. Here below is the view from the helm at night looking forward.

The view from the helm at night

Then the sun rises and all seems fresh and new again. Put on the coffee, make some breakfast, wake up and refresh, the day is starting and your ship is pressing onward. Day after day after day and you eventually reach the destination. This was our sunrise on day two.

With all the motoring and the long distance, we decided to pour in three more jugs of fuel just to keep the tank more full than empty. Our tank's motoring range is about 350 nm and this was only 250 nm so we were in no danger of running out. So, in this calm sea we easily could pour the fuel into the deck fill as there was no seawater running down the deck. Here is Hayden adding fuel.

Finally, LAND HO....there were the Dominican Republic mountains under our jib as we sailed into the new winds that finally arrived. This was a sight we have never seen, tropical tall mountains under our own sails as we arrived from sea. We have sailed in Blue Hill Bay, Acadia Maine but even that does not look like this. This is tropical and it felt very cool.

Welcome to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Bahia Marina.....

Don and Meloney one of the infinity pools
Radeen and Meloney

WHAT? Radeen with a celebratory adult beverage at the pool

Radeen, Lauren and Meloney in the pool

Here are the buddies we are running with. Bill and Lauren on Grand Banks 42 long range cruiser SEA STAR and Don and Melanie on a Lagoon 38 Catamaran FEZYWIG. Very fun people!

Tomorrow, we will tour the local town of Samana by local bus. The next day, we will drive a van 3 hours to the south shore to tour Santa Domingo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Dominican Republic is a very interesting island to discover!